(Knoxville, Tennessee), The three Transform Now Plowshares activists who used wire cutters to breach fencing around a nuclear weapons site in July 2012 were sentenced Tuesday. Sister Megan Rice (84), Michael Walli (65) and Greg Boertje-Obed (58), received 35 months for the Catholic nun and 62 months for the two men.
Wielding hammers and spray paint, the trio traversed four fences including a lethal force zone, to symbolically deface the Oak Ridge facility and inscribe biblical messages on the buildings to bring attention to the ‘death, suffering and planetary destruction’ for which the weapons-grade uranium is intended. The Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex stores fuel for 10,000 nuclear warheads.
“Please have no leniency with me,” the nun told the judge. “To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest honor for me.”
Although U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar has ordered the activists to pay $53,000 restitution, he lauded the morality inherent in their actions and handed down sentences that were lower than what the US Attorney requested. He explained the still harsh penalties saying he hoped it “will lead people back to the political process I fear they’ve given up on.”
The charges included degradation of property and sabotage which carried possible maximum sentences of 30 years in prison. Sentencing guidelines recommended sentences ranging from 6-10 years.
Excerpt from the Transform Now statement:
“For now, their bodies remain in prison. But their voices are free, reminding us that the central issue of this action and trial have not been resolved—as long as the government continues to produce thermonuclear weapons of mass destruction in Oak Ridge or anywhere, people are required to resist,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. At the hearing, each of the Plowshares resisters spoke, reminding the court of the central purpose of their action—to call the court’s attention to the ongoing violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at the Y12 plant in Oak Ridge. The statement issued at the time declared the United States in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and said Y12 was chosen for the action because of plans for a multi-billion dollar bomb plant to be built there—the Uranium Processing Facility. The sole purpose of the UPF (price tag now $19 billion) is to produce thermonuclear cores for warheads and bombs. Y12 is an active weapons production facility—workers today are performing Life Extension Upgrades on the W76 warhead at Y12.”